Cycling-Ultra record seeker says 644 laps of a velodrome will be fun

  • Cycling
  • Monday, 19 Feb 2024

LONDON (Reuters) - Compared to some of the two-wheeled feats of endurance he has attempted in the past, cyclist James MacDonald thinks his crack at the 100-mile indoor record next week will be a bit of fun.

The 53-year-old ultra-cyclist from the Scottish Borders will ride approximately 644 laps -- or 100 miles (160.93 km)-- around the London Velodrome on Wednesday hoping to notch up another record.

To do that, MacDonald must cover the distance quicker than American Michael Secrest who clocked three hours 46 minutes 16 seconds in 2011.

Pedalling round and round a 250-metre wooden track for nearly four hours at a lung-busting pace might sound like torture but MacDonald is made of stern stuff.

He holds the ultra-cycling world record for the fastest ride from Britain's extremities, Land's End to John O'Groats -- and back again -- covering 2,711km in five days and 18 hours.

He has twice attempted the 24-hour record on a track, foregoing toilet breaks and eating on the go.

So 644 head-down laps staring at the black line on the wooden boards at an average of 43kph should be a breeze, right?

"It's a really different beast," MacDonald, an IT professional, told Reuters. "This is a bit of fun compared to (the 24-hour attempt). It's much more of a pure, athletic event rather than the focus on fuelling, pacing and discomfort."


MacDonald said he was drawn to ultra-cycling because there were plenty of records to shoot at, even for someone on the wrong side of 50. In July he will tackle a 1,000-km non-stop ride across the Swiss Alps but for now he is focused on flatter terrain.

"I already have the Guinness World Record for 100km on a track," MacDonald said. "That was really enjoyable so this is going to be that, plus another one hour and 20 minutes."

Sickness meant he postponed the attempt in December and he has been training in Scottish snow, ice and rain outside because "there are only so many hours you can ride around a velodrome".

Come Wednesday, MacDonald will be wired up and have pacing instructions relayed from 'race engineer' Toby Ellis.

"He's the trusted voice in my ear," MacDonald said. "We know exactly what the strategy is. You wouldn't notice it from the outside because the difference between high and low is going to be about a quarter of a second per lap. But I can feel that."

MacDonald said that a professional rider such as world hour record holder Filippo Ganna would not be crazy enough to attempt the record which is not an official UCI category.

But that does not put off MacDonald who says he will be close to his maximum effort throughout.

"The 644 laps will go pretty quick and from an effort level it's going to require a high percentage of my maximum," he said.

"(The record) is within my capabilities. If everything goes well on the day, there's a really good chance to break it.

"We're going to go a little bit quicker at the beginning. So hopefully I'll get a message later on from Toby to say that I can 'slow down' to 42kph to get the record."

(Reporting by Martyn Herman; editing by Clare Fallon)

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